One of the very natural by-products of a long-standing yoga practice is the heightening of consciousness in all realms. Many people find themselves adjusting their diet along with their mindset as their understanding of the mind/body/spirit connection continues to broaden. Over the years I’ve found myself moving towards a plant-based diet that focuses on whole foods over anything processed. I’ve become more socially conscious and concerned about my community and the world as a whole. I’ve found myself cringing more and more at the consumerism that is rampant in our lives today and have taken steps towards reducing my reliance on material goods. These were slow changes and slow realizations over the years but 18 months ago when I gave birth to my daughter all of these concepts were suddenly amplified in importance. Now, my mindset and the way I navigate the complexities of modern life will impact my entire family and this sweet little girl that I’m raising. So, if I want to raise a healthy, happy, socially conscious little being I feel compelled to really understand what it is that is important to me. And so, here is my first crack at writing down (and thus, in a way, committing to) the principles of Simple Living that are important to me and my family.
Simple living can mean many things. There is no one way to live simply. What is really exciting is that there are people all over the world right now standing up and defining their own paths of simple living. And so, for your consideration, here are some of the ways that my family is attempting to “pare down” in order to be happier.
For our family simple living means the following:
1. Living within our means. This is the hardest one for two reasons. First of all, we’re programmed to want more, more, more. We’re hard-wired to want what our friends have and what people in magazines and on tv have. We’re marketed to at practically every moment of every day with the sole purpose of convincing us to buy more. Having a child amplifies this 100 fold. The second reason that this principle is the hardest is that it has the most dire consequences if it’s not respected. Our family does not function well when we are in debt, or when income is scarce or uncertain, or when we have things we need or want to do but no plan in place to make it happen. And so, we strive to live within our means. In recent months stress, uncertainty, and busyness have all played a part in us slipping away from our financial plan. To remedy this I’m working on a shiny new 2014 Family Financial Plan using tools from Gail Vaz Oxlade. She has a great budget planning tool on her website.
2. Being in nature / getting back to the Earth. Much of the modern day stuff we surround ourselves with serves as a box over our experience of life. We need to get outdoors to reclaim our sense of simplicity. When we’re indoors we’re bombarded with screens and advertising and stale air and stuff. But when we’re outside surrounded by trees, ocean, air, earth it’s very difficult to need or want anything more. Regular (daily) trips outside are necessary for keeping us connected. And then longer stints of time at the cabin or camping or hiking help to refresh our connection to nature.
3. Choosing happiness. As much as possible my husband and I choose happiness. Being happy is a choice and it’s a practice. You can choose to see the good in the world and to enjoy your experiences for what they are (rarely perfect). You can also choose to make a change when things in your life are not serving your practice of happiness. (I know that this is a very simplistic view. And i know that there are terrible things that happen all the time that make choosing happiness near impossible. I’m talking about in general, most of the time, when life is chugging along in all it’s wonderful and comfortable mediocrity). Choose to be happy, choose to see the good. Rules to live by in the Simple Life.
4. Buying less & buying wisely. In short, this means reducing consumerism and the drive to want more (see point #1 – most of us can’t afford to have everything anyway. And point #2 – get outside instead of filling your house with more stuff. And point #3 – be happy with what you’ve got! ). When we do buy goods and services, we do our best to buy local, sustainable and fair. I have a particular interest in this concept as it relates to food. I buy whole foods (preferably local) and our family avoids processed food most of the time. We planted our first garden this past Spring and hope to grow even more of our own food next year.
5. Increasing self-sufficiency aka knowing how to do stuff. This is last on the list because it’s probably the one that’s newest to our family. Of course, we’ve always known how to do *stuff*. I can create a blog and reconcile a bank statement and organize a schedule of employees and write a business plan. My husband can program high-tech software, operate a highly sophisticated password protection system that ensures nobody (not even his wife) will ever figure out his banking passwords, and keep track of his daily hiking/running/skiing/snowshoeing kilometers in meticulous fashion. But I’m talking about old fashioned *stuff*. We want to know how to do the important day-to-day tasks that keep a household operating. We want to move towards an urban homestead lifestyle (or really, a true homestead away from the urban landscape…but that’s another discussion). A few things on the “to learn” list: baking bread, making cheese, canning and preserving, growing vegetables, keeping chickens, building structures (greenhouses, sheds) and furniture, sewing, knitting, composting, homeschooling and more. I think of this category as including the tasks that seem at first to be very complex and time consuming but that turn out to make your life more simple in the end. There’s nothing quite so satisfying as learning to do something for yourself that you previously had to pay somebody to do. And of course we’re not alone on this journey – I know many people who’ve recently put in raised beds for growing veggies or are contemplating getting some backyard chickens to produce eggs for their family. And just a couple of weeks ago we drove through downtown St. John’s behind a car with a goat in the backseat! A GOAT! That was a sight. I’m really excited to keep learning about self-sufficiency and to learn from the many wonderful people in our community who have knowledge and wisdom to share.
So that’s it for now. I’m sure we will continue to refine this list. What would you change about this list for your own family? How do you live (or envision living) a more simple life?